Heat can quickly stress babies and young children, because they are very sensitive to the effects of high temperatures.
It is very important to watch them closely and to keep them from getting dehydrated or hot, as they rely on others to take care of them.
Signs of heat stress and what to do
Even when they are affected, babies and young children may not show early symptoms and signs of being affected by the heat.
Signs to watch for are:
- looking unwell or being more irritable or floppy than usual,
- having drier skin or refusing to drink,
- having fewer wet nappies than usual.
The soft spot on top of a baby’s head (fontanelle) may also be lower than usual.
Feeding and drinking
It is important to make sure that babies and children are getting enough to drink, because they are not able to tell you they are thirsty.
Breast-fed babies may need extra breast-feeds in hot weather, but if the baby is having other foods, small amounts of cool boiled water can be given between feeds.
Bottle-fed babies may need a small amount of cool boiled water or extra formula if they seem thirsty.
Water is ideal to give young children as regular drink throughout the day.
Dress young children and babies in light, loose clothing, loose top, nappy and singlet.
Cold or cool water should not be used, because this causes their temperature to rise – children and babies start shivering and usually crying. It is uncomfortable for anyone to be in cold water.
For babies and young children to sleep, choose the coolest place in the house and make sure air can circulate around.
If you don’t have air-conditioner or a fan you can cover your young child’s or baby body with cool damp cloths and place sheets or wet towels around the cot or bassinet, to cool the air immediately near them.
If you use a fan, don’t point it towards your child or baby but use it to keep the air circulating in the room.
Make sure the room does not get too cold, if you have air-conditioner, about 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit is low enough.
Going outside or travelling in the car
During times of extreme heat, avoid taking your young child or baby out. If you have to go outside, protect their skin from the sun by covering it with a hat and loose clothing or by keeping them in the shade.
Use toddler or baby formula sunscreen on skin, which cannot be covered by clothing. Babies can very quickly overheat in hot weather and especially in cars.
Avoid travelling when it is hot, but if travel is necessary, do it early in the day.
Never leave children, babies or pets alone in a car, even if the air-conditioning is on.
If their skin is not covered, it can burn from sunlight coming through car windows, because their skin is very thin. Never cover a baby capsule in a car with a towel or rug to shade baby from the sun, as this will restrict air moving around the baby, making them hotter.